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A Message from the Executive Director
Many of us watched in horror as we saw live-feed footage of militarized police shooting water cannons, concussion grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets at the peaceful Water Protectors in below-freezing North Dakota temperatures last week. In time since the attack, we have learned that more than 300 people were injured, including one young woman whose arm was nearly blown off after a concussion grenade exploded on it. And, on Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a statement saying that they will be evicting everyone from the camps at Standing Rock sometime after December 5.
Meanwhile, the camps at Standing Rock continue to be self-sustaining, peaceful, prayerful, powerful places. They are led by indigenous leaders fiercely committed to one another and to the sacred earth. They welcome in visitors from around the globe who continue to travel to show solidarity and support for the #NoDAPL resistance movement. They continue to spread the word about this struggle for indigenous sovereignty, and against the rampant corporate greed and unquenchable thirst for oil that push the Dakota Access Pipeline forward.
Let us be clear: the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the Water Protectors are resisting the same insidious forces of indigenous genocide, colonial hegemony, and land theft that have been in play since the first Europeans arrived on this continent. The Dakota Access Pipeline was rerouted to the tribe's sacred land when the white citizens of Bismarck would not accept the risks inherent in its construction upstream from their own community. The militarized police colluding with corporate interests -- and the lack of courageous intervention by elected officials -- is the same story of racism and white supremacy that faces communities of color and indigenous peoples not only throughout United States history, but throughout our nation all the time right now, today. As Unitarian Universalists, we are compelled by our faith now, more than ever, to show up in solidarity however we can in solidarity with those who struggle for justice, and in resistance to the interlocking, oppressive systems that disregard human life, self-determination, and the health of our precious earth.
Many of you have reached out to ask how you can be of support to the Water Protectors, and to our Unitarian Universalist kin at the Unitarian Universalist Church & Fellowship of Bismarck/Mandan, who have been on the ground at the Oceti Sakowin camp for months and such consistent supports to the movement there. We are in close touch with Rev. Karen van Fossan, the minister at UUCFBM, and she has passed along several calls to action and recommendations for acts of solidarity from indigenous leaders at Standing Rock. They are listed below, and there should be something every one of us can do, no matter what our resources or capacity.
Friends, there is so much work to do, but your faithfulness and your commitment keep me going. Together, we are so powerful. Thank you for your generosity.
In faith and solidarity,
Rev. Ashley Horan, Executive Director
TRAVEL to Standing Rock for the December 4 Interfaith Day of Prayer
The Water Protectors have consistently asked all people of conscience to consider showing up in person to show solidarity with the #NoDAPL movement, and keep the world focused on the struggle there. In particular, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Spiritual Leader of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations, has issued a call for all people of faith and conviction to come to Standing Rock for an Interfaith Day of Prayer on December 4, 2017 .
MUUSJA will be helping to coordinate caravans of Unitarian Universalists from around the state for the December 4 event. If you are interested in connecting with other UUs planning to attend, please fill out this Google form - you can indicate where you'd like to leave from, and if you need a ride or would like to offer one to others. Once we determine the interest, we will help ensure that folks connect with each other and can make plans for traveling. We will also likely be sponsoring a large van that will leave from Minneapolis, with spots available for clergy and/or lay people both from the Twin Cities and around the country.
If you are planning, or considering, a trip to Standing Rock, please read the four documents linked here about how to prepare for, be respectfully and helpfully present at, and return from the camps.
DONATE MONEY to Support the #NoDAPL Movement and the Water Protectors
MUUSJA asks that Unitarian Universalists contribute to making it possible to answer the call of indigenous leaders at Standing Rock who have invited Unitarian Universalists to maintain a consistent presence there, AND to directly funding Native-led resistance by the Water Protectors.
To that end, we ask that you contribute to the UU Presence at Oceti Sakowin Fund (for the "yUUrt," a semi-permanent structure at Standing Rock that houses visiting UUs and any others who need a place to stay), AND make an equal or greater contribution to the Oceti Sakowin Camp Fund, run and managed by the Water Protectors. While we do not know exactly when and if a forced eviction will happen, we have been told by our partners on the ground that both of these funds are still going to be operational and are good candidates to which to send financial resources.
SEND WINTER SUPPLIES to Oceti Sakowin Camp
Again, while we are not sure if/when a forced eviction of the camps will come, we know that the Water Protectors are planning on maintaining a presence for as long as possible. They are still in dire need of many winterizing supplies, as detailed on the Oceti Sakowin Camp donation page. If you have any of these supplies and would like to send them along with UUs who will be traveling to Standing Rock this week, please email MUUSJA Executive Director Rev. Ashley Horan.
It is imperative that we work together to keep pressure on the people who have the power to halt the pipeline, and to keep the Water Protectors' struggle in the public eye even though the media has been largely ignoring the story. Click here for a list of suggestions of strategic contacts, and spend a bit of time letting the powers that be know that we are in solidarity with Standing Rock.
We have heard consistent requests from the Water protectors to "remain constantly in prayer" for them and their sacred land. Many Unitarian Universalist congregations around the country have committed to holding special vigils or services on Sunday, December 4, at the same time as the Interfaith Day of Prayer is happening; they have also committed to taking a special collection at these gatherings and sending that money to Standing Rock. If there are already vigils or local solidarity events happening in your community, organize a contingent of supporters from your congregation to attend together. If you organize an event on your own, reach out to other congregations and faith communities to join you.
Whether it is a congregation-wide event, or a small gathering of supportive people gathering, our prayerful attention and spiritual support for our kin at Oceti Sakowin matters.
Native and indigenous history has been intentionally and systematically erased from our American history books, and most of us have very little context for and understanding of what is happening at Standing Rock as the latest of a centuries-long story of domination and resistance. If you are just beginning to learn about Standing Rock and the #NoDAPL struggle, check out the #StandingRockSyllabus: a compendium of readings, articles, photos, and a timeline that help draw the larger picture of this moment into historical context.
As you seek out other sources of information, especially those , ask yourself: Who is telling the story? What pieces of their social location influence how they see and tell this story? Are Native voices present and centered in the narrative, and their perspectives honored as true?